The characters of the foregoing chapter exemplified. An irreparable misfortune befalls our hero.
THE two sisters had lain longer a-bed that usual the morning after their arrival in town, which was owing to the fatigue of their journey. They had but just finished their breakfast by twelve o'clock; Aurora was then sitting down to her harpsichord, and Theodosia reading the play-bills for the evening; when the door opened, and Count Tag was ushered by a servant into the room.
When the first ceremonies were a little over, and the Count had expressed the prodigious satisfaction he felt in seeing them returned to Town; he began to enquire what kind of season they had had at Bath? 'Why really,' said Theodosia, 'a very good one upon the whole; there were many agreeable people there, and all of them easy and sociable; which made our time pass away cheerfully and pleasantly enough.' 'You amaze me,' cries the Count; 'impossible, Madam! how can it be, ladies?—I had letters from Lord Monkeyman, and Lady Betty Scornful, assuring me, that except you and themselves, there were not three human creatures in the place.—Let me see, I have Lady Betty's letter in my pocket, I believe, at this moment—Oh no, upon recollection, I put it this morning into my cabinet, where I preserve all my letters of quality.'
Aurora, smothering a laugh as well as she could, said she was extremely obliged to lord Monkeyman, and lady Betty, for vouchsafing to rank her and her sister in the catalogue of human beings; 'but surely,' added she, 'they must have been asleep both of them, when they wrote their letters, for Bath was extremely full.' 'Full!' cries the Count, interrupting her; 'oh, Madam, that is very possible, and yet there might be no company—that is, none of us; nobody that one knows—for as to all the tramontanes that come by the cross-post, we never reckon them as anything but monsters in human shape, that serve to fill up the stage of life, like cyphers in a play. For instance, you often see an awkward girl, who has sewed a tail to a gown, and pinned two lappets to a night-cap, come running headlong into the rooms with a wild frosty face, as if she was just come from feeding poultry in her father's chicken-yard—Or you see a booby 'squire, with a head resembling a stone-ball over a gate-post.—Now it would be the most ridiculous thing in life, to call such people company. 'Tis the want of titles, and not the want of faces, that makes a place empty; for if there is nobody one knows—if there are none of us in a place, we esteem all the rest as mob and rabble.
While this imaginary man of quality was thus settling the orders and ranks of life, the door opened a second time, and a servant introduced the amorous old gentleman, whose character was drawn in the foregoing chapter. The ceremonies that ensued on his appearance interrupted the count's harangue, and fortunately gave the conversation another turn, before that pretty gentleman had time to finish his ingenious dissertation on polite company.
Our aged gallant, putting on an unusual air of gaiety, and busting himself up, as if his soul intended to walk out of his body, approached the two ladies, and saluted them both—then sitting down, and addressing himself to Aurora, told her, he should for ever afterwards think the better of the Bath waters, for sending her back with such a charming bloom in her complexion, * Madam, added he, you out-do your usual out-doings: I protest you look more divinely than ever; and not contented with excelling all other people, I see you have taken a resolution at last, to excel yourself.' 'Sir, said Aurora laughing, there is no possibility of making any reply to such extravagant compliments.—but I thought, sir, you intended us the favour of your company at Bath this season.' 'Yes, Madam,' answered he, 'I did so, but my d—mn'd ignorant physicians would banish me to Scarborough, though I knew it was impossible for me to have my health in any place, at such a distance from your ladyship. I protest, added he, you inspire me with a youthfulness, which I have not felt this half-year in your absence.
While this superannuated man of gallantry was thus affecting the raptures and fire of youth, the door opened on a sudden, and the young lord appeared, whose character concluded the preceding chapter. He approached the ladies with a respectful bow, and enquired tenderly concerning their health, but addressed himself rather in a more particular manner to Aurora. Her face immediately changed on his entering the room, and a certain air of affectionate languor took possession of her features, which before were a little expressive of scorn and ridicule: in short, she received him with something more than complaisance, and a tone of voice only calculated to convey the sentiments of love. The conversation that ensued between them was easy, natural, and unaffected; and though sometimes his lordship's eyes would stray involuntarily to Aurora, yet he strove to direct his discourse indifferently to the two sisters, and likewise to the other gentlemen that were present: for the delicacy of his passion was unwilling to reveal itself in a mixed company. So very differently did these three lovers express their affection.
Little Pompey was witness of many of these interviews, and began to think himself happily situated for life. He was a great favourite with Aurora, who caressed him with the fondest tenderness, and permitted him to sleep every night in a chair by her bed-side. When she awoke in a morning, she would embrace him with an ardour, which the happiest lover might have envied. Our hero's vanity perhaps made him fancy himself the genuine object of these caresses, whereas in reality he was only the representative of a much nobler object. In this manner he lived with his new mistresses the greater part of a winter, and might still have continued in the same happy situation, if he had not ruined himself by his own imprudence, and defeated his own happiness by an unguarded act of folly.
Aurora had been dancing one night at a Ridotta with her beloved peer, and retired late to her lodgings, with that vivacity in her looks, and transport ion her thoughts, which love and pleasure always inspire. Animated with delightful presages of future happiness, she sat herself down in a chair, to recollect, the conversation that had passed between them. After this, she went to bed, and resigned herself to the purest slumbers. She slept longer than usual the next morning, and it seemed as if some golden dream was pictured in her fancy; for her cheek glowed with unusual beauty, and her voice spontaneously pronounced, 'My lord, I am wholly yours.'—While her imagination was presenting her with these delicious ideas, little Pompey, who heard the sound, thought she over-slept herself, leaped upon the bed, and waked her with his barking. She darted a most enraged look at him, and resolved never to see him any more; but disposed of him that very morning to her milliner, who attended her with a new head-dress.
Thus was he again removed to new lodgings, and condemned to future adventures.